I am new to gypsy jazz, but have been playing guitar for over 50 years. I have played everything from folk tunes in the 70's to New Orleans r&b, Chicago and Texas blues, and flamenco, sometimes semi-pro, but always with a day job. The one thing that has always been the brick wall for me has been jazz on guitar. I tried it in my youth, during the heady days of jazz fusion music, but I didn't have the discipline at the time. What I can say, though, is like most guitar players, I have a good ear. I can hear and understand the most complex improvisational music.
I've been interested in Gypsy Jazz for as long as I've heard it. I am lucky enough to say that I've seen Stephan Grappelli in person (yeah, I'm almost 60). I finally picked up the guitar again after a hiatus, inspired by local GJ player Tony Green. Unfortunately, I did not find Michael’s site until after I bought a Taylor 310ce, the closest thing I could find to a GJ guitar around here. Now, I've got an Altamira with my name on it heading my way later this month and may sell the Taylor (maybe not, though; can’t have too many guitars).
In the interim, found a jazz instructor that took the time to dissect GJ theory and soloing, but, at $50 a lesson without specific GJ experience, I dropped him. I subscribed to a Robin Nolan’s magazine and even bought his a "Minor Swing" master class. Later, I bought Yaakov Hoter’s video class on “Minor Swing” and learned the entire solo pretty close to speed. (For the same $50, Yaakov’s study is light years ahead in content and comprehensiveness.) I also picked up Yaakov’s Ballad study and learned a finger and pick style of “Tears.” I'm now working my way through Michael's Gypsy Picking book (reworking my “Minor Swing” solo), and Denis Chang’s accompaniment DVD. I've gotten used to using the 3.5 Wegen pick, but I'm researching others.
So, here’s what I'm thinking. Part of the impetus--in addition to the obvious attraction of playing Gypsy Jazz--is that this is an great way to get into through my final brick wall on guitar: jazz. I felt and still do feel that the energy of the music is a great motivator. There is, of course, much more to it than this. Little did I realize the specialization in picking and strumming styles were so exacting.
The main thing is, though, I don't look forward to spending the rest of my life woodshedding in a room, learning every single arpeggio, trying to get faster, playing for no one. What I do want to do is--within the limitations I have--play some of the most beautiful and interesting music I've ever heard.
To that end, I can now play pretty good versions of the two tunes I mentioned, but I can’t stretch very far in a solo beyond what I've learned by heart. I’m not so naive as to believe that there’s a shortcut to the proficiency I have in blues, r&b, folk and other genres (and they are not easily translatable to Gypsy Jazz), but I don't want to waste time either. I have made some inroads into studying this music, and I have been able to distinguish a few approaches that seem inherently better for me. I have been reading a lot of the old posts on this forum about learning to play, especially about those about being new to the style. I look forward to the arrival of my new real Gypsy Jazz guitar in the belief that it will further spur my interest and excitement for this music.
If you've read this far, I'd appreciate your comments on how to make the best use of my time learning this great music.
I like your avatar name very appropriate. Got four years on you and understand your situation.
As @stuart said about the new guitar is true. Congratulations I think you'll love your Altamira.
Sounds like your on the right track.
What works best for me is to listen to some Django or Gypsy Jazz and find the songs I want to add to the bag. Then I listen over & over again, at that point you may wish to check out the following web-site.
so now that you have a destination you can go here for the MAP
There are charts and chords with the G. J. fingerings.
Example…After your Gone
Dango in June would be a great treat, I'm putting it on my schedule for this year.
Lots of luck and HAVE FUN :-c
A great way to start is to just take the melody of the song and embellish it a bit during your solo. Most listeners will enjoy that much more than a guy who squeezes in every double time lick he knows.
But at the risk of repeating myself, nobody ever went wrong by starting out with "Gypsy Picking".
Additionally, students at any level can always learn by attempting to copy the master himself, and there are several websites offering low price transcriptions.
I wish there were only a way to get good at this style really fast... best as I've been able to tell, that would involve a divorce, selling all your possessions and moving to France or Holland to hang out with the hot players and practising your ass off 16 hours a day!
Now where have those #%$&@ emoticons gone when I need them?
Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."
Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
Beyond that, if you can't find a qualified teacher, Denis Chang's DVDs are invaluable - many hours of lessons from a world class instructor. Besides The Art of Accompaniment, which you have, the four volume Technique and Improvisation set covers soloing in great detail. It is also available as individual DVDs. It looks like a lot of money, but believe me, it's way more than worth it.
Does your name indicate that you're from New Orleans? The premiere gypsy jazz teaching event in the world is Django in June in Northampton Mass. You should check it out - instruction from masters is available at all levels, plus untold hours of jamming. People come from as far away as Australia, so NO is not that far. Just don't plan on getting much sleep.
"It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
-- Orson Welles
On the other hand, I do live in New Orleans, Louisiana: the birthplace of jazz, the music that gave rise to Gypsy Jazz. I have become increasingly aware of my city's role in the genesis of American music in general and Jazz in particular. New Orleans is one of the few cities in the world with an active music culture generating new music. For the last 20 years or so, for example, we have been developing the resurgence of the brass band. Check out the pioneering music of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and the more recent evolution, Trombone Shorty's band, Orleans. And, if you haven't had a chance to do so, pick up HBO's Treme and give it a watch. There's never been a better television program about New Orleans music and culture.
Unfortunately, Gypsy Jazz is not hot right now in New Orleans. There have been players in town like Tony Greene who had brought it to the fore for a while, but it's not on most people's radar here currently. Nonetheless, I do believe I can find players. Until then, there's always backing tracks and Band in a Box.
I want to especially thank you, Michael. I think you have created the premier Gypsy Jazz enthusiast site and mecca for those of us interested in this music. As I said, I'm working my way through your Gypsy Picking book, and I just got Gypsy Rhythm today in the mail (wow, that thing has got heft! ). Already, I have seen and heard improvements in my "Minor Swing" solo playing. I look forward to sinking my teeth into the gypsy rhythm and chord progressions you have laid out in your Gypsy Rhythm book.
Unfortunately, I won't be able to make the Django in June festival. But we do have one of the country's premier music events, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, coming around at the end of April and beginning of May. With a little luck, the promoters have included some Gypsy Jazz in the lineup.
And, if any of you guys are interested in a visit to New Orleans, please allow me to be your guide. I was born and raised here, and I have become somewhat knowledgeable myself regarding the music and culture of my town and state.
I'm also just starting and I find Yaakov Hoter's gypsyjazzschool.com to be very very helpful. Denis Chang's stuff too, and his DC music school is a very valuable resource.